Administrators of the collapsed Force India Formula One team have revealed that they expect to pay all of its creditors in full after its assets were sold to fashion tycoon Lawrence Stroll for £90m.
Despite finishing in a respectable fourth place last year, Force India crashed into administration in July. Its collapse was driven by a lack of funding from its former owners, beleaguered Indian businessmen Subrata Roy and Vijay Mallya who is fighting extradition from Britain to his home country.
The team’s future was secured in August when a consortium led by Stroll bought its assets and although the purchase price wasn’t disclosed, it has now come to light along with details of how badly it had hit the skids.
Documents from the administrators, FRP Advisory, reveal that in 2018 the team received “two loans from BWT, its main sponsor, of £757,000 and €535,000 to assist with its cash flow.” It barely scratched the surface.
The list of creditors shows that Force India owes £28.5m to more than 450 companies including parts manufacturers, hotels, delivery firms, caterers and even the race tracks in Abu Dhabi and Italy. The list is crowned by a £13.7m bill from Force India’s engine supplier Mercedes followed by $4m owed to its driver Sergio Perez who ultimately stopped the team from getting the red light.
The documents reveal that on 5 June Force India received a winding-up notice from the UK’s tax authority HMRC and Formtech, a parts supplier which was owed £2.4m. A court was due to decide on 25 July whether to approve the notice and if it had done so the team would have had to close its doors for good. Perez stepped in at the eleventh hour to put it into administration which he was perfectly entitled to do as he was also owed money.
Unlike a winding-up notice, administration gives a lifeline as it involves administrators being appointed with the objective of finding a buyer for the company’s shares or selling its assets. They also get full oversight of its finances and according to FRP, “cash available in the company’s bank account on appointment totalled £240k. This was insufficient to meet immediate costs, such as the outstanding wages for July 2018 of some £2.2m.”
BWT stepped in again and gave the team a £5m loan and although this covered the July salaries it was still a drop in the ocean. The documents state that “there was a funding requirement of £9.6m for August to include the July and August salaries, ongoing car build costs, shut down maintenance costs as well as preparatory costs for the forthcoming races at Spa and Monza. No meaningful income was forecast to be received in August.”
It put the pressure on FRP to find a buyer and it says that it “engaged with numerous interested parties, receiving in excess of 20 expressions of interest.” It set a deadline of 6 August and got five firm offers of which it says only one was an offer to buy the shares in the team.
This came from Stroll and FRP says that his Racing Point consortium immediately “provided a £15m loan to the company to enable the ongoing payment of costs including the time critical development of the 2019 racing car...This enabled BWT to be repaid their loan of £5m.” It was far from the end of the story.
The charges against Mallya surround $1.3bn of unpaid loans given to his companies by Indian banks. They want him to appear in court in India and have got a worldwide freezing order on his assets so that they can seize them if they win the case. It prevents Mallya from selling his assets and this means that the banks had to give their consent to the sale of his shares in Force India.
It put FRP in a race against time as the sale needed to be completed by Monday 20 August when staff returned for the summer break for the Belgian Grand Prix that weekend. FRP says that when it became clear that consent wouldn’t be given by the deadline it had to change gear and sold Force India’s assets to Racing Point, instead of the shares in it, as they weren’t covered by the freezing order.
The documents state that “by 14 August 2018 the required consents of the Indian banks had not been obtained...On 15 August 2018 Racing Point advised of their intention to proceed with a purchase of the company’s business and assets for £90m...On 16 August 2018 a sale of the company’s business and assets was completed for a consideration of £90m which was received in full at completion.”
FRP says that it will receive 2.25% of the proceeds, which comes to £2m. It adds that “based on the assumptions made in the estimated outcome statement it is currently estimated that there will be sufficient funds available to pay all creditors in full.” If this happens then Mallya and Roy would be paid from the remaining amount though there could still be more twists and turns to come.
FRP is being sued by Russian fertilizer producer Uralkali whose chairman and shareholder Dmitry Mazepin is the father of Force India development driver Nikita Mazepin. Uralkali says that it too wanted to buy Force India and although it made a higher offer it was ignored. FRP insists that it acted appropriately though this isn’t the only obstacle in its way.
The documents list numerous lawsuits that Force India is facing including “a claim of approximately £10m as commission for introducing a sponsor. This claim is presently scheduled for trial in July 2019...A claim of approximately £8m as commission for introducing a sponsor. We have also received a claim since our appointment for approximately £3m in relation to introducing an interested party to acquire the company (which did not occur).”
FRP says that its lawyers “consider the claims for commission to be without merit” but it doesn’t stop there. The documents add that Mallya and Roy even claim to be owed £159m, which they gave to the team. However, according to FRP’s lawyers the duo actually owes the team at least £4.2m.
FRP says that its forecast that all creditors will be paid in full is made “on the assumed basis that we do not become aware of any other creditors and the various legal claims against the company are unsuccessful.” So although the final lap of this saga is in sight, it isn’t quite here yet.
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